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Taking a Position: Autism Awareness

  • Posted on April 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM

April is Autism Awareness month. April is almost over. I think I’ve put this off as long as I can. *sigh* So, here it goes…

Autism Awareness is a good thing if:

  • It promotes the well-being and dignity of people with autism.
  • It reaches out to those who are not aware of autism and helps them to become not only more aware, but accurately aware.

Autism Awareness is a bad thing if:

  • It promotes the fiscal well-being of so-called autism organizations over the well-being and dignity of people with autism.
  • It only reaches out to people within the greater autism community, particularly when it is derisive to people without autism and/or when it uses “straw man” arguments to discredit another’s point of view.

Seems simple enough, right? Yet, over the years, I’ve seen so much bad “Autism Awareness” that I’m rather disgusted with the whole mess of it; so, for the most part, I opt out. I don’t want to fight about it. I don’t want to debate it. I don’t even want to discuss it. I just want my boys to have a fair shot. That means I live “Autism Awareness” every day of every month of every year, and I’ll probably be doing that for the rest of my life. I leave April to those who can put “Autism Awareness” away when May comes around, and to those who can’t but aren’t tired of the show for the show’s sake.

Awareness

  • Posted on April 16, 2012 at 8:00 AM

April is Autism Awareness month.

April is also Child Abuse Prevention month.

This coincidence doesn’t have to be ironic.

Autism Abuse from Luis Blanco on Vimeo.

Unaware

  • Posted on May 23, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Apparently, it’s Mental Health Awareness month.  Don’t you feel more aware and stuff now that you know that?  I certainly do, or, um, well, not.  See, I’m not a big fan of awareness months.  It started with my first taste of Black History Month.  I don’t remember what grade I was in when I noticed the libraries featuring books in celebration of Black History, but I do remember thinking:  “So, what, they don’t have a history the other eleven months?”  And, sadly, according to the education I received (totally public, if you have doubts), that’s pretty much true, too.  It’s like, prior to the Civil War, there was no black history and between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement there wasn’t any either.  Now, one could assume that people with black skin didn’t do anything important in the intervening time—and I suspect some people have/do assume just that—but, that’s really just ignorant.  And so, I have to wonder, does a Black History month really change the prejudice and bias of the eleven other months?  No, not really.  So what, exactly, does it accomplish?

And, while I’m asking, what is the purpose of a Mental Health Awareness month?  It seems to me, whether the special month is set aside for autism, mental health, or black history, the purpose is to highlight how much the mass audience really doesn’t care.  Okay, so, yes, they care enough to give us a month.  Whoop-tee-doo.  And so, what, it just goes away the other eleven months out of the year?  For them, maybe.

Actually, for some people, that’s exactly it.  Some people have the luxury of being unaware of mental health 100% of the year, so—to make themselves feel like they care—they take a month out of their otherwise blissfully unaware lives and…what?  Raise money?  Talk about mental health?  Something?

Now, I’m sure some of you are going to say that I have it all wrong.  This is a month where people with mental health challenges raise awareness among those unsuspecting healthy minds and build acceptance and understanding.  Sure, well, maybe that’s the point, but it’s May 23 and I heard about this awareness month on the 20th.  In other words, though I have mental health challenges and am married to a man with mental health challenges, I was blissfully unaware of this month for 2/3rds of said month.  So, if the job is to actually raise awareness, mission totally not accomplished.

Maybe it’s just that May follows so closely after April, but I’m tired of awareness campaigns that are here and gone, accomplishing no real awareness in the meantime.  I’m tired of the “Oh, but we didn’t knows” that fail to disguise the real message of “Oh, but we don’t really care.”

Mental health, autism, black history, and all the rest…they’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.  If we, as a society, could really admit that to ourselves, then we wouldn’t need to set aside a month for any of them.  I’d rather be unaware of the month and be aware of reality, but maybe that’s just me.